It was a Miracle! Or unexpected, anyway...
Despite your best efforts to
keep caterpillars out of the container of water in which the
fennel plants sit, it will likely happen that, sooner or later,
one will end up in the drink, having crawled thru an unused hole
in the plastic cover, or, if you do not employ a plastic cover
(for shame!), having fallen from the plant directly into his/her
Recently, I discovered a smallish
(3/4 inch) cat had managed to get thru the plastic cover and
was submerged and motionless at about half the depth of the water
in the container. I don't know how long he had been there, but
I carefully removed him and placed him on a paper towel so I
could get a look at him. I used my trusty hand-held 5x lens,
and saw, in some detail, one very dead-looking caterpillar---no
motion anywhere. Recalling that Kathy had told me she had had
a cat come back to life after apparent drowning, I decided to
not toss this guy into the fennel trash bin. I dabbed him dry
with a bit of paper towel, then left him. An hour or so later,
no sign of life so I went to bed.
Next morning, I came to check
the cats and glanced over at the dead one...but he wasn't where
I had left him! In fact, he was actively exploring one edge of
the piece of paper towel! He was alive and kicking! He was baaaaaack!!!
My advice, therefore: never toss
out a drowned cat! Dab him/her dry and then go away for a few
hours. You may be pleasantly surprised when you return.
The Big Question is, how the
heck do they do this trick? How can a cat be submerged in water
for long enough to look and behave as dead as a doornail, then
recover after a few hours and be apparently fine? My guy was
fine, as it turned out, and went on to become a monster and then
pupate normally. Some guesses: Presumably a caterpillar is not
a major user of oxygen, and maybe tiny bubbles of air are trapped
by the various and sundry spiny projections and that air is available
for use while submerged, and maybe, like other animals, submergence
in water causes a reduction in oxygen use and a sort of shutdown
of all but the "core" bodily functions in order to
conserve oxygen. In other words, maybe the little squirmers know
how to go on metabolic "hold". Lots of maybes here....if
anyone knows the real answer, please send a note.
BTW, I think we think it would
be considered tacky by butterfly and caterpillar lovers everywhere
to perform experiments regarding this phenomenon...right?